CONTRIBUTORS

Believing in Mike Michaud’s vision for Maine, the environment

Posted Jan. 13, 2014, at 2:35 p.m.
George Danby
Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell
Contributed photo | BDN
Rep. Sharon Treat, D-Hallowell

I like Mike, and I’m looking forward to voting for him for governor. U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud is known as a Blue Dog Democrat, and I’m known as a progressive. Michaud is a northern Mainer born and bred; I hail from Vermont and live in downstate Hallowell.

Yet despite these surface differences, under the skin we are kindred spirits. I completely trust Michaud to want what is in the best interests of Maine people and, more than that, to effectively govern to carry out his vision.

To fully explain my enthusiasm for Michaud, let’s go back a few years. It is October 1986. Gov. Joe Brennan has called the Legislature into special session to address a crisis: Developers descending on Maine’s open spaces to build garbage dumps.

Leaking town dumps litter the state, little more than holes in the ground dripping leachate into aquifers below. Maine lacks siting rules and engineering standards; and with lots of cheap undeveloped land, it is attractive to developers looking to make a fast buck burying garbage from cities to our south.

In a few months the infamous “garbage barge” Mobro, loaded with 3,000 tons of New York City trash, will set off on an epic 112-day journey up and down the East Coast looking for a place to dump its increasingly odiferous load.

I’m a young, newly minted, idealistic environmental lawyer just starting my job at the Natural Resources Council of Maine. My mission? Work to pass strong landfill protections and forward-looking recycling laws. I’m new to the state; I’ve never lobbied; and there are recent hard feelings between Maine’s papermakers and my organization over a big hydro project. The Legislature’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee is chaired by two papermakers, and House Chairman Michaud is already a force to be reckoned with.

I was worried. But what do I find? A very savvy, smart guy committed to strong environmental protection and with the leadership skills to make things happen, who overlooks my from-away roots to work closely with me to develop and pass the right policies.

He was — and is — unafraid to buck monied interests supporting the status quo. He was — and is — a skilled leader of his peers: first the environment committee, then the budget-writing Appropriations Committee and, finally, a successful president of a Senate divided evenly between Democrats and Republicans, where I had the honor of serving with him as assistant floor leader. It is no small thing that in Congress, his peers selected him to head their trade caucus, where he has led the fight for New Balance jobs and made the case to strengthen, not undermine, environmental protections.

In fact, the Michaud I have known and worked with more than 25 years has always had a strong vision for Maine and the know-how to implement it.

 

— Vision in being the first state in the country to extend returnable bottle laws to juice, wine, liquor and water — part of comprehensive solid waste and recycling laws that limited out-of-state waste, cleaned up dumps and enforced strict rules to protect groundwater and air.

— Vision supporting strong dioxin limits in our rivers.

— Vision balancing local control with smarter land use development to protect Maine’s unique sense of place while supporting growth.

— Vision fighting for comprehensive worker and community chemical right-to-know, and a toxic use reduction law to rid our mills of pollution at the source.

When Michaud speaks of his love for Maine’s environment, he speaks from the heart. More than that, he is a leader on these issues. Back when I was new to Maine and to politics, he showed me how to lead — bringing disparate interests to the table; dealing with colorful personalities, egos and local politics; and hammering out policies that work and garner support.

I know Michaud will be a terrific governor. I trust him implicitly, because as skilled as he is, as wide-ranging his knowledge and experience, at his core he is the same Michaud I first met in 1986: quietly, effectively charting a path for Mainers that respects and honors the value of each and every one of us, and the environment in which we live and work.

 

Rep. Sharon Anglin Treat, D-Hallowell, is an attorney serving her 11th term in the Maine Legislature. She was Senate chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee from 1996-2000 and served as assistant floor leader and then majority leader of the Senate from 2000-2004. She currently co-chairs the Joint Standing Committee on Insurance and Financial Services and the Maine Citizen Trade Policy Commission.

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